A paleo picnic

The paleo peeps met again at Sydney Park for another potluck/picnic. Lots of great food (great tasting + healthy) and even better company. Here are some snapshots of the wonderful dishes, including two kinds of salad, meatballs, beef & spinach muffins, paleo bread, butter & avocado, salmon cakes with yoghurt dipping sauce, awesome raw treats, and my contribution: pate (the recipe I’m not allowed to share), pistachio pesto from The Paleo Kitchen and beet hummus. Note that someone was awesome enough to bring their own portable stove to heat up meatballs.

Salads

Meatballs

Beef & spinach muffins

Pate, pistachio pesto, beet hummus

Paleo bread, butter

Salmon cakes, yoghurt dipping sauce

Treats

Xmas day lunch with the family

Speaking about Chinese food on Christmas, this year our family Christmas day lunch featured Paleo Peking duck, served with lettuce instead of the pancakes featured in the recipes. The duck wasn’t as crispy as expected because I chickened out at the prospect of the fire alarm going off and decided to cut the cooking time a bit short. It was very tasty, though.

Paleo Peking duck

Paleo Peking duck & veggies

I also made some stir-fried Chinese broccoli and black fungus with a sauce made with chicken broth, tapioca flour and tamari.

Stir-fried Chinese broccoli and black fungus

Dessert was this mango and orange paleo cheesecake tart that was delicious. We used too little gelatine so had to eat it quickly before the top layer melted (lame excuse to eat dessert as fast as you can).

Mango & orange paleo cheesecake

Merry Xmas from my family to yours!

Xmas lunch

Xmas celebrations at the Buddhist centre

Xmas was one of the excuses we used to make a pig on a spit party at the Buddhist centre this year. Everything that could go wrong went wrong, and I’m almost completely responsible for this. I wanted to hire both the pig and the spit from Feather & Bone to make sure everything went well and to avoid dealing with double stress, but they didn’t have any spits available on that day. Anyway, mistakes and accidents aside, the pastured, ethically raised pig they provided was, as expected, top quality, and needed nothing more than salt for perfect flavour.

Pig

I made rosemary roasted potatoes, coleslaw with red and green cabbage, apple and celery, broccoli, snow pea, cabbage & carrot salad with Asian dressing, and lentils with radishes and celery for the vegos. We also had gherkins and a variety of chutneys and condiments.

Rosemary roasted potatoes

Salads

The wonderful GG put together amazing platters of fruit and paleo balls + strawberries dipped in chocolate.

Fruit

Balls, strawberries

Christmas flashbacks

Growing up, Christmas was the most anticipated day of the year for me, even more than my birthday. It meant family, presents, food and a preview of New Year’s fireworks, courtesy of my uncle. Celebrations started on Christmas eve at my parents’ house, with my aunties and uncle visiting all the way from next door. There were also some elements of torture: going to church at 10pm for “misa de gallo” (translates as “rooster mass”, which was so crowded that I nearly fainted almost every year), and waiting until midnight for dinner. Both changed later, when I was old enough to opt out of mass (and Catholicism) and someone had the brilliant idea of eating earlier and doing the hugs and presents at midnight.

Food itself was a form of torture: self-inflicted indigestion and sugar rollercoaster. Dinner was roast turkey (slathered with Coke, beer, butter, and a commercial marinade featuring Peruvian chilli, cumin, garlic and vinegar), “Russian” salad (beetroot, potato, carrots, peas, corn, apples, avocado, mayo), applesauce, and rice (traditional white cooked with garlic when I was a kid, then mum started making a recipe with olives, nuts and raisins). We drank soft drinks and toasted with cider (in Peru it comes in a champagne-style bottle and is saved for special occasions). After the fireworks and presents we ate panettone with butter, and drank hot chocolate (bitter cacao tablets cooked with water and cinnamon, to which we added evaporated milk and sugar). The panettone and hot choc were totally unnecessary both calorie-wise and weather-wise (it’s summer, people!), but we had them for the sake of tradition. We chatted and played with our presents, and went to bed to try to digest and prepare for the next day’s feast.

On Christmas day we always slept in and headed to my aunties & uncle’s around mid-day. When my sisters and I were kids and got toys for presents we arranged all of them on the couch and stood behind it for the annual photo. Our “traditional” Christmas lunch was Cantonese-Peruvian food from our favourite “chifa” (the name we give to such restaurants, which are very popular back home). I usually went with a couple of my aunties to get the takeaway dishes: savoury chicken rolled with asparagus, “kam lu wantan” or sweet & sour pork with pineapple and wontons, roast duck in oyster sauce, stir-fried noodles with chicken, veggies and quail eggs, fried rice with char siu pork, chicken & prawns, plus soft drinks. Basically sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Topped with an afternoon tea of, you guessed, more sugar: panettone and hot chocolate, round 2. It’s possible that we had leftover turkey on Christmas night.

The flip side of all that eating, which was excessive during the holidays but quality-wise not too far off our regular habits, is a family affected by diabetes, overweight/obesity, hypertension, heart disease, mental illnesses, joint & skin inflammatory conditions, and cancer. It’s interesting to note that dad always had plain white rice instead of the “flavoured” ones, and plain bread rolls (or boiled chicken sandwiches) and tea instead of panettone and hot choc. He was the healthiest of the bunch, yet he always had gut problems and died of colon cancer.

My big sister and I were fat and, even though we both now maintain a healthy weight, our sugar metabolism is kinda broken. It’s great that we now live in the same city, thousands of kilometers away from home, meaning that we are free to celebrate with delicious, nourishing food.

Sydney food bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

This year the Sydney food blogger Christmas picnic changed locations. After last year’s rain, the ladies in charge, Helen and Suze, found a weather-proof venue: one of the pavillions at Bicentennial Park (Sydney Olympic Park).

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

The shade was perfect to guard us from the scorching sun. There was a good supply of cold drinks to keep us refreshed.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

The way these things work is that each blogger brings a dish to share and a food-related present for Kris Kringle. In the past few picnics the organisers have provided forms for writing down the dish description, blogger name and blog, and I was happy to see that now the forms include tick boxes to mark dishes as gluten-free, nut-free, vegan and/or vegetarian.

As expected, bloggers are given a generous period of time to take photos of food.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Then we were given permission to attack. The most anticipated dish IMO was Ramen Raff‘s macarons. For some reason, even though I’m not a big macaron fan and I prefer eating savouries before sweets, I felt compelled to grab one before they were gone (actually someone else grabbed it for me, thank you!). The filling was half melted but the shell was perfect! I get the anticipation now. Great job, Raff!

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

I was happy to see that Irene’s lemper made a comeback. You’ve heard me say before: if I eat rice it has to be worth it. This is one of such cases.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

The pulled pork rice paper rolls by Cath were awesome (and worth their rice), too. I almost missed them because they were sort of hidden (thanks Kelly for showing me where they were!).

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

We don’t do awards but if we did, the award for the prettiest food would go to the hamburger cupcakes by the guys behind Oh, Burger Me.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

And the award for the most thoughtful contribution would go to this red velvet cake brought by the Khismosa guys.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

One of my favourite foods was Billy‘s Christmas ham. I even got an action shot to prove I’m a real blogger.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

My contribution was chicken liver pâté with celery and carrot sticks. The recipe is from my friend Richie, who among many other things is an amazing cook. I tried to get his permission to publish it on the blog but he said “keep it safe, keep it secret”, so no recipe. I’ll just say we’ve tried a few recipes and this is our go-to.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

As per usual, there was so much food that even when a big percentage was not gluten-free (like these massaman empanadas) there was still plenty of choice for me. For example, the spicy kale chips by Shanshan. Yum.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

We ate and mingled around, putting faces on blogs we knew and including new blogs in our (rss) feeds.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Our traditional Kris Kringle game was tons of fun in the beginning but got kinda long with 74 peeps participating. Popular items this year included a waffle maker, teapots and cheese boards. I got a set of owl-shaped ceramic measuring cups that I’ll be definitely using.

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

Sydney Food Bloggers Xmas picnic 2014

You can find the official posts here: Suze’s and Helen’s.

Christmas eats and Happy New Year

This year’s Christmas celebrations involved brunch at home and dinner with some of our Buddhist friends.

My sister got a smoked ham from work, which I baked with a honey/mustard/orange juice glaze. We had it with a light salad consisting of rocket, radishes, cucumber, fennel and avocado, simply dressed with apple cider vinegar, olive oil and sage salt. We paired brunch with a nice sparkling shiraz.

Ham and salad

The main reason the salad was light was to counter-balance not one but two desserts (!). I made paleo panettone (recipe here) which I baked in a muffin tray because I didn’t have a proper tin. It didn’t taste like panettone and it wasn’t as light as the photo in the recipe suggests, but it was delicious, particularly with a good square of Pepe Saya butter on top.

Paleo panettone muffin and Pepe Saya butter

Dessert number two was paleo Christmas puddings (recipe here) with custard (recipe here). For the puddings I used Macro organic dried fruit, which is not full of sugar like the regular stuff, in particular the dried apricots. As a result, the puddings were on the tart side, and not cloyingly sweet. They were very dense, too, due to the almond meal. For the custard I used almond milk and tapioca flour. It didn’t taste like regular custard, but was nice.

Paleo custard and Christmas puddings

Paleo Christmas pudding with custard

We arrived at the Buddhist celebration mid-afternoon. Our hosts had family and friends for lunch, and they were having drinks when we arrived. They had prepared a feast that included amazing food, such as prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, cured salmon with sour cream and caviar, eggplant dip with chorizo, pâté with cranberry sauce, prawns, scallops, ham, chicken skewers, chicken wings, pork belly with honey and soy sauce, sausages + prunes wrapped in bacon, etc. Food was plentiful and amazing. I certainly ate much more than what I should have but I enjoyed every single bite.

As usual we had a New Years Course at the Buddhist centre with plenty of food, drinks and of course meditation.

Looking back, 2013 wasn’t a particularly dramatic or eventful year. My major achievement was to survive second year in uni (while working 23+ hours per week and keeping the blog alive). But it wasn’t as boring as it sounds! For example, I did some N=1 experimentation with my training (Olympic weightlifting, Crossfit and Crossfit-type training) and nutrition (Bulletproof coffee for breakfast, Bulletproof protein fasting). Tried a few therapies to deal with shoulder/neck pain (acupuncture, osteopathy). Became an Australian citizen. Was delighted to find more real food/paleo eating options popping up in Sydney (Thr1ve, Real Food Connection, Eat Me Primal, Paleo Cafe).

Hope you had a wonderful 2013 and here’s for an even better 2014!

Sydney food bloggers Xmas picnic 2013

It’s that time of the year again! My third Sydney food bloggers picnic (Xmas 2010 and 2012 were the previous ones, I missed Xmas 2012) happened a few Saturdays ago in our usual spot in Centennial Park.

The most amazing thing about it this year was the weather. We had had a few storms the previous days. The weather was very unstable, with bouts of sunshine and menacing clouds. Around midday some bloggers in the West started reporting thunder. The storm was moving towards the East (i.e., the picnic venue) but the organisers Helen and Suze twitted the picnic was still on, and that they were getting tents from Bunnings. In the end the storm eased out and we had a gorgeous picnic day. Amazing.

But let me go back a little bit. I was about to leave when things got worse in the Inner West. I decided not to go. Checked Twitter again and saw the second most amazing thing about this year’s picnic: a photo of Mr Crackles donation for the picnic: a giant box of crackling. 25 kg of crackling. I grabbed my rain jacket, dish to share, and left.

Crackling!

Crackling!

Crackling!

Using crackling as tray

The food was abundant and amazing as usual. Each blogger is supposed to bring a little something to share, and most of us overdo it. For example, I brought a full batch of my crustless morcilla & kale quiche, that is enough for 4-5 days of breakfasts for 2 people.

Food

Food

Food

Food

Food

For people who think it’s impossible to eat paleo, let me tell you I left the picnic absolutely stuffed from all the gorgeous food I could eat. Besides my quiche and my bodyweight in crackling, I enjoyed pulled lamb with mint sauce, hot wings, antipasto skewers, dark chocolate truffles, fruit skewers and lemper, banana leaf-wrapped glutinous rice with a chicken & coconut filling that was delicious (and yes, not strictly paleo).

Pulled lamb with mint sauce

Hot wings

Dark chocolate truffles

Fruit skewers

Last lemper

I also enjoyed a few of Simon’s cocktails and some homemade ginger drink.

Simon making cocktails

Homemade drinks

We played the traditional Kris Kringle which is always great fun.

Kris Kringle presents

“We” (thanks Simon!) also shot the traditional group photo, this time all facing the camera (yay!)

theheartoffood-sydfbxmas2013-group-500-wm

Once again, thanks to Helen and Suze for organising yet another great picnic!

Australia Day 2013

The weather on Australia Day was beautiful. Sunny, hot, perfect for a barbie. Too bad we planned ours for the next day!

Still I felt like doing something on the day, so my housemate, her dog and I walked to Enmore Park to see what was on. I had just trained and feeling peckish, but didn’t have high expectations on the food offering. Yeah, there was Turkish pide, fairy floss and paella, but also a few interesting finds (with really crappy music on the background).

The Gourmet Rotisserie immediately caught our eye with their chickens on display. They offered both chicken and porchetta served in panini. A closer look at the menu revealed the magic words: gluten-free option, served on potatoes.

The Gourmet Rotisserie

The Gourmet Rotisserie

Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken

Porchetta

Porchetta

Bonnie and I shared the porchetta served on potatoes with aioli and salad. It was good (nice crackling), although not precisely huge on flavours. We eat potatoes very sparingly so I’m glad when they are as good as those. I guess we can thank the aioli.

Porchetta on potatoes

Porchetta on potatoes

There were two Mexican stalls. I found it cool that one of them emphasized the use of free range eggs and organic meats.

Burritos

Burritos menu

My husband would have gone nuts with the coconut man, who offered young coconuts to drink and/or eat and was also selling a handy perforating tool that apparently works both on young and mature coconuts. You still need a knife to expose the flesh, though.

Coconut & coconut openers

Coconut & coconut openers

The rain on Sunday did not stop us from having an Aussie barbie. We had salads, lamb chops, beef burgers, homemade condiments and sauces (ketchup, macadamia oil mayo & aioli, a Venezuelan cousin of guacamole, and salsa verde made by a real Italian, Paola). My friends Susy and Jose brought some outstanding beef and sausages. He is Uruguayan and arrived with his own BBQ tools. Needless to say, he’s an expert!

Salads

Salads

Homemade condiments, pickles

Homemade condiments, pickles

Lamb chop, beef burgers

Lamb chop, beef burgers

Sausages, beef

Sausages, beef

Gladys baked a delicious Paleo chocolate & banana cake with chocolate frosting.

Paleo chocolate/banana cake

Paleo chocolate & banana cake

Dessert number two (yes, we had two desserts) was an amazing apple crumble (a.k.a. scramble) that Bonnie made in the slow cooker.

Paleo chocolate/banana cake, slow-cooked apple crumble

Paleo chocolate & banana cake, slow-cooked apple crumble

We ate too much and drank too much. So yes, we had a great Australia Day.

Christmas eats and Happy New Year

Christmas lunch

On 2012 we had a couple of Christmas celebrations at home: a dinner with our Buddhist friends and lunch on Christmas day.

Dinner started with some excellent marinated olives courtesy of our friend Gaby. Then we moved on to the main dish: this Middle Eastern Christmas roast lamb, rubbed with spices and slow-cooked for 4.5 hours in the oven. I used cauliflower to make the rice/lamb mince base, and it worked out perfectly. Sides were baked sweet potatoes and a caramelised onion and chard salad from this cookbook. Dessert were chocolate almond butter swirl brownies from the same book made by my housemate Bonnie in the slow cooker (!), served with fruit and coconut cream.

Marinated olives

Marinated olives

Christmas roast lamb

Christmas roast lamb

Cauliflower rice & lamb mince

Cauliflower rice & lamb mince

Baked sweet potatoes

Baked sweet potatoes

Caramelised onion and chard salad

Caramelised onion and chard salad

For Christmas lunch we decided to recreate our “traditional” meal from back home. I use quotes because it’s more a Peruvian version of American thanksgiving. Anyway, we had roasted turkey (marinated with Peruvian flavours, recipe coming soon), this slow-cooker applesauce, and “Russian” salad (my Paleo version of my family’s version of the Peruvian version). In case you’re wondering, the salad had steamed beetroot, potatoes and carrots, celery, avocado, and homemade macadamia oil mayonnaise. We drank a summery white wine sangria made with Verdelho, Cointreau, soda water, and sliced limes, lemons, oranges and peaches. Dessert (which we had as afternoon tea) was this wintery Paleo fruitcake served with coconut cream.

Turkey

Turkey

Plated turkey

Plated turkey

Russian salad

Russian salad

Applesauce

Applesauce

My plate

My plate

White wine sangria

White wine sangria

Paleo fruitcake

Paleo fruitcake

Happy New Year everyone, all the best in 2013!

Paleo party food

Now that the end of the year is approaching and there are parties everywhere it’s easy to give up and declare the start of a cheat month. To me that would be like setting the wrong mindset that would lead to pain, inflammation, and a few extra kilos. I know I will occasionally eat and drink too much, so I do my best to keep my food as clean as possible.

For me, the easiest way of achieving this is cooking or bringing food to social events. For example, we had a party at the Buddhist centre a couple of weeks ago. I volunteered to prepare the food with the help of my sister and my housemate.

The spread

So what was in the menu instead of sausage rolls and party pies?

  • Kalamata & Sicilian green olives marinated in olive oil, orange zest and bay leaf
  • Bacon meatballs (50% minced grass-fed beef, 50% minced bacon)
  • This chicken satay (cooked in bite-sized pieces and served with toothpicks)
  • Deviled eggs, two ways (with mayo & chipotle powder and with tuna, mayo & gherkins. Mayo was made at home using this recipe with a bit less oil than prescribed.)
  • Crudités (carrot & celery sticks)
  • This beet hummus
  • Guacamole (avocados, red onion, lime juice, coriander, salt)
  • Sun-dried tomato pesto (sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, walnuts, roasted garlic, salt & pepper)
  • Sweet potato chips, gluten-free potato chips, corn chips, and rice crackers (to keep the junk gluten-free!)
  • These fudge balls (sans salt)
  • These raw walnut macaroons

Bacon meatballs, marinated olives, deviled eggs

Bacon meatballs, marinated olives, deviled eggs

Chips, sun-dried tomato pesto, guacamole, beet humus, crudites

Chips, sun-dried tomato pesto, guacamole, beet humus, crudites

Chicken satay

Chicken satay bits with cashew sauce

Chocolate fudge bombs & raw walnut macarons

Chocolate fudge bombs & raw walnut macarons

Our bartenders kept a steady supply of mojitos, bellinis, and martinis. All other booze was BYO and I know of at least one person who made the mistake of drinking a bit of everything. Oh, well.